We are about to enter the season intended to restore, reflect, and rejuvenate and ‘rest’. I hear you all now. What – is she kidding? Has she met my kids? Has she seen ‘the list that must be obeyed’? No – seriously.

We can do these things and we can do them well and we can emerge from the other side of this season into spring with new energy. New ideas. A more balanced perspective. A client recently insisted that she just could not slow down. It was like her world would fall apart if she wasn’t constantly moving through it like a tornado to keep things running smoothly. I always poo poo such talk. Acting like tornados is a choice we make. Same with whirlwinds.

Speaking of whirlwinds… part of a peaceful structure to our home life at this time of year – is ensuring our kids are getting optimum nutrition to also stay balanced and calm.

Un-tornado like.

Seasonal eating is also important. To promote good nutrition – which is absolutely essential this time of year – and possibly get some unexpected peace and quiet, we need to set a good example for our kids.  We need to eat well also.  We need to ‘un-tornado’.

As parents, one focus should be to reduce stress. Our kids watch and absorb our every move – or every ‘twist’. Stress, processed foods, and too much sugar (in all its forms) – can soon a chaotic household make. And in closed quarters, the stress factor will rise much more quickly. As appealing as it is to bundle up our little charges and toss them out in the snow, monitoring what everyone eats is probably more appropriate – especially when it is super cold outside.  A few basic rules will go a long way. Especially in the season intended for hunkering down…burrowing into our homes.

Children who are overweight or obese are suffering with truly preventable health problems.  Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions.  Increased consumption of fast food and junk food, combined with decreased levels of activity are undoubtedly the primary factors behind obesity, type 2 diabetes, hormone imbalances in teens, and a variety of other health problems, including behavioral issues. In the winter months, we tend to make more allowances for poor eating and lack of exercise.  A couple of simple solutions in the cold winter months is to dance indoors – to funky, motion inducing tunes that will make a tornado tap its toes. Its fun, invigorating, stress releasing, and calorie burning. Everyone pitching in and doing the family chores with some sixties rock on in the background will make everyone move faster. Nothing like doing dishes to Bowie. And even when it is super cold…you can always bundle up and go for twenty minutes of brisk walking – the cold burns calories and so does the movement. And you can throw snow balls at the kids to get them moving really fast.

One of my favorite stress releases is to order most of our groceries online. Small Potatoes Urban Delivery – or www.spud.ca is mostly organic, local and seasonal. We save money, time and our sanity. I have said this before – it is like getting a gift on the doorstep every Friday.  Menu plan with the kids and then pour yourself a glass of warming tea…sit back and ‘go shopping’. If you sign up – mention me and you will get a discount.

Healthy Kids are Happy Kids and Happy Kids make Happy Households.

At any time of the year, always avoid processed foods such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, store-bought cookies, chips and so forth. Food processing drastically reduces overall nutritional value, particularly vitamin and mineral content and leaves us with foods relatively high in calories and low in nutrients.  In addition, processed foods often contain hydrogenated fats, which have been found to damage cellular membranes – a very important consideration for growing children.  Refined sugar and flour also stresses the metabolism, disrupts digestion and slows brain function. A little while later…you could have little tornados all over the place. Not to mention in the classroom.  And who knows the possible future health risks. Our job is to protect our kids at ALL COSTS.

Unless there is no alternative, the selections should be whole, organic, local when possible and non GMO or processed. With the breads and grains, choose sprouted organics – some are a bit high in sodium, but easily digested.  Look for lists of GMO products and the MANY ingredients found in refined and white refined sugar and salts – there are approximately eight chemicals to offset the damage of one and then another. Pretty outrageous. A quick search on the internet may leave you shivering….and this is the time of year we need warmth. And warming foods.

Reading labels these days can be interesting. But do and then avoid ingredients with a “chemical” name.  A number of additives are used to increase shelf life, enhance flavor, and improve appearance and texture.  Many of these additives contribute to digestive problems, allergies, brain fog, acne, early sexual maturation, hyperactive behavior, among other problems. One of my favorite umbrella terms for many hidden ingredients is Natural Flavors. Including MSG – this term hides all sorts of added ‘junk’ we just shouldn’t have. Take a look in your pantry. You may be very surprised. And read my articles on ADD and ADHD.

Focus on soups, casseroles, layered dishes, warming appetizers and smaller meals in the evening. Vegetables and whole grain products (sprouted) can be added to main meals, and to a lesser extent, fruits. Food in its natural, unrefined state contains valuable nutrients, including live enzymes and fiber, necessary for childhood development.  Go organic as much as possible.

Here are some ideas to get you through the coming winter without tears or tornados.

Let children get involved in cooking and learning to make healthy food choices at an early age.  Ask your child to help make a healthy menu plan for the week, and let them help with the shopping.  Education is key. A fabulous web site to review is www.101cookbooks.com. It has menus and recipes broken up into meals and events including ingredient and pantry lists and how to build up the pantry for ease of planning and convenience. Also, my site has wonderful and easily accessible lists to help you in your planning. Great snack and food style plans for everyone.

Some winter fruits include apples, avocados, mandarins, plums, and late winter strawberries. These last should always be organic. Vegetable choices are varied and rich. Red beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, early winter butternut pumpkin, cabbage, cauliflower and leeks and onions. In addition, parsnips, snow peas and zucchini. All of these can be chopped and added to a vegetable stock with warming spices to make a great soup. Blend half and add back to the base. Add lots of fresh garlic and dried basil. Make enough for at least two or three dinners. Miso stock can be added here and really should be considered a staple all year long. A tablespoon in hot water, stirred and stored in a thermos is great for kid’s lunches. And so healthy. Homemade pizzas and sprouted grain wraps with a variety of herbal teas, can round out even the pickiest eaters menu.

Our medicinal foods for winter include cabbage, onion, garlic and mustard.  These keep us warmed from the inside out and have amazing healing properties. Garlic can be added to the miso. Mustard can be added to the cabbage – eaten and left over broth can be used for chest packs during the cold season. Our aromatherapy considerations should include lavender, clary sage, geranium and bergamot. I love to throw an old pot on the stove, add water and add essential oils. Cloves with nutmeg and Ylang Ylang are a favorite.

Regarding colds and viruses? Our little winter wonders should never get Tylenol to reduce fever unless it is in an emergency situation. We want a fever because that is the immune system heating up to burn off the virus and or the bacterial infection. By chemically reducing the fever – our immune system has to work hard at revving up again. Now the slight fever is a raging one. There are other appropriate ways of ensuring we are very comfortable during a fever.

Over the counter meds are entirely frowned upon now – as well they should. Coughing, sneezing and fever and chills are the bodies’ way of detoxing that which needs to be eliminated. Let your child relax and rest. Take the opportunity to do the same. A client recently told me that when she needs to rest – she gives her kids gravol. I find that lazy, and dangerous.

Frequent cold, nightmares, behaviour issues, crying easily and eczema can all indicate allergies, essential fatty acid deficiencies and even a problem with minerals – usually a deficiency. If an all out nutrition war is hard on you now, it can be disastrous for your child’s life later. A good rule here: you control what they eat; they control how much they eat.

Living a ‘seasonal life’ and honouring and adjusting to the individual energies of each season is a tradition adhered to by many old civilizations. The consistency of the seasons can teach us the old rhythms of the earth where each stage of development is measured and considered.

In conclusion?

We live on the edge of the fringe – the must be super hero fringe…a residual hangover. You are number one. You must always be number one…and, you were here first. If you are running around like crazed mad people – your kids will also pay the price. You will pay the price. Your body will pay the price.

Because our children are so sensitive to our moods, the energy in the house, the adult behaviours and so on, part of what challenges us in their moods and behaviours, is in part, something we control. When we are pushed to our limits and even beyond…our kids will pay a price. Something gets lost in the chaos. The goal is to protect them. But – as odd as this may seem, we do that by protecting ourselves first. We have to be good to ourselves…to be good for them. So, this is where some of the hardest work has to be done. How much can you gain? And what can you lose? Ultimately – we will always look back. What we choose to see when we do so…is up to us right now. Use everything within you. Think back to a time when you have done things before that required the same strength…do it again. And trust. And let go. And this coming winter?  ‘Be’ instead of ‘do’. The kids will be fine. But how that happens is up to the parents. And for now – empower yourself and understand that you are on the edge of something pretty incredible. No need to ‘duck’ from those little tornados any longer. Although – they may need to duck from your snowballs. Now – go outside and play. And then – rest.

Originally published Fall 2008

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